Pondering Francis

I have been trying for a while now to get my head around what Pope Francis might really think about economics and markets and so forth.  I have been puzzled by a few of his remarks. I think I am not alone in that.

I saw in interesting interview at Real Clear Religion with Rocco Buttiglione, who played a role in the economic views of St. John Paul II.

[…]

RCR: Does Pope Francis have the same kind of philosophical heft that Wojty?a had?

RB: No. He is a different man.

RCR: Is that problematic for the Church?

RB: I don’t think so. We have had a pope who was a great philosopher, we had a pope who was a great theologian, and now we have a pope who has a great pastoral spirit. The Church needs all. I dare say that after those two popes we surely need a pope like Francis because the Curia is a mess and you need someone who has the capacity of clearing that mess.

RCR: You’re often credited for bringing Wojty?a to free market ideas, especially in the context of Centesimus Annus. How did you seem to persuade him?

RB: I would not put it that way, but I was a friend. As Don Ricci had done with me, I talked to Wojtyla about my friends and the things I saw in the world. Sometimes he asked me to do this or that for him, and that’s all.

RCR: Do you think Pope Francis needs a similar education on economics?

RB: Well, you had a pope from Poland who came to understand and love North America much more than anybody could imagine. Now you have a pope who comes from Latin America and in dialogue with him, we must try to explain other things. He is a pope that cannot be only Latin American, but he has to enlarge his horizons. How will he do that?

One of the first things John Paul II did when he became pope was go to Latin America. There he gave a series of homilies, which are a kind of regional encyclical. This encyclical is not against liberation theology, but it is an encyclical that says: We want a theology that is from the point of view from Latin American people. Fine. We want a theology that is written from the point of view of the Latin American poor. Even better! You think that you can produce this theology by using Marxism? That’s wrong. You need a different instrument to approach socio-economic realities from a point of view of a true liberation theology.

I remember one day Don Ricci and I were in Lima, Peru and we were talking with a group of liberation theologians. It was the day of the feast of Señor de los Milagros, and all the people were in the streets. I told the theologians: You talk about the people? Please open the door and look on the streetsThey are the people! They are people who are not Marx’s proletariat; they are a people of culture and religion.

Then we started working in Latin America to create groups that wanted to make a true liberation theology. Some wanted to condemn all liberation theology, and there was the first instruction from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which was very harsh.

I went around visiting different countries and when I came back, John Paul II invited me to one of his “working dinners.” In the end, he asked me: There is the theoretical side, but how is Gustavo Gutiérrez as a man? Does he say Mass? Does he pray the Rosary? Does he confess people? Yes? Then we must find another solution.

After that came the second instruction on liberation theology, which made a distinction between true liberation theology and Marxist liberation theology.

RCR: Which liberation theology is Francis influenced by?

RB: He is not a Marxist. Politically, he is a Justicialista. Westerners might call it populist. Justicialismo in Argentina has been a tremendous movement, giving for the first time to the people the idea that they have dignity. They are anti-capitalist and anti-Marxist. There is an Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism, which is the “self-made man.” That’s American. But that’s not capitalism in Argentina. Capitalism there is where a few people use the contracts given by the state without taking the risk of the market make an enormous amount of money and oppress other people. It is a capitalism created by the State.

If I could suggest to Pope Francis the reading of a book, I would suggest he read Friedrich Hayek’s The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies on the Abuse of Reason. This might help him.

[…]

Justicialismo…  good grief.  Who of us up here in the North can grasp what on earth has gone on in Argentina?  The more I read about the place, and its modern history, the less I understand.  Do you have be Argentinian to get it?  Does anyone understand Perónism, with all its layers and bands along the ideological spectrum?  I’d be pretty skeptical were someone to make that claim.  Take a look on Google for something on Justicialismo.  There is nearly nothing useful in English.  I read Spanish, but… sheesh… this has been entirely ignored.

I recently heard a talk about Pope Francis with a South American journalist who is the head of CNA and ACI Prensa, Alejandro Bermudez (whose background is, in part, Argentinian).  He clarified a few things for me and proposed some others.  In no particular order….

Concerning the Argentinian view of capitalism, I think I now better grasp the Holy Father’s (and that of whoever was doing some ghostwriting for him) dim view of capitalism, especially of so-called “trickle down” economics.  You will recall that that Francis mentioned this in his Post-Synodal Exhortation Evangelii gaudium and that there was controversy about the (bad) English translation.  To simplify: if up here in the North we think of “trickle down” as wealth pouring into a cup and, when the cup fills, it overflows and runs downward to the next level, thus helping to raise others up from poverty, in Argentina there would be a different view.  There is no “trickle down”, because as the wealth pours into the cup, the cup gets bigger and bigger so that nothing escapes over the edge.  This is the Argentinian experience.  And so in the matter of personal economics, we individuals and families with our little economies might go off the rails of charity when we say something like “I’ll help the poor after I get my second boat.”  As we gain wealth, rather than than overflow our boundaries, we expand our boundaries into more personal stuff.

Furthermore, Bermudez spoke of the influence on Francis of thinkers such as the Uruguayan writer-theologian Alberto Methol Ferré, the Russian-American sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, and the pivotal Spanish-language poet Rubén Darío.  To condense wildly, it seems that Francis may breathe in a school of thought that sees a kind of “manifest destiny” for Latin America.  When cultures develop a interior decay, which they always do, revitalization of the cultures comes from “peripheries”.  For the larger Church, experiencing an interior decay, a periphery is Latin America.  Latin America, unlike any other continent, is unified in language (by far dominated by Spanish with related Portughese) and is/was unified in religion, Catholicism (though there is bad erosion).  With these unifying factors, Latin America has a critical role to play.  Also, if you are playing attention, Francis seems to use the word “periphery” a lot.  This not quite the same thing as “margin”.

Alas, we in the North have in general paid scant attention to what’s going on intellectually “down there”.  Thus, I have no idea who Alberto Methol Ferré and Rubén Darío are.  I guess I had heard of Sorokin, but I know little to nothing about him other than he explored a cyclic theory of societies.   A lot of us in the North are a bit crippled when it comes to ferreting out what Pope Francis is up to.

I had read that, while Pope Francis is a staunch opponent of Marxist-based Liberation Theology, he did embrace a kind of “liberation theology” that flowed from the devotion of the people.  If I (and others I talk to, and Buttiglione and Bermudez) are right about these things, then I may be getting closer to understanding a key element of Francis’ of economics, the North, etc.

Lastly, it could be that Francis, who has been placed on a pretty steep learning curve, now has an opportunity to learn something about the North and its ways and views.  It may be that his time in Germany, his only experience of the North aside from occasional visits to Rome, tainted his view of all of the Church in the North.  In Germany he would have experienced a Church with a lot of money and fewer and fewer believers.  I suspect that when and if he makes his first North American visit, he many encounter something that he hasn’t yet experienced.  It could be also that, as he meets representatives from North American Catholic organizations and hears about what they do, he is gaining a new insight into the Church in the wealthy North Western Quadrant.

I look forward to input especially from South American readers and, in particular, Argentinians.

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54 Responses to Pondering Francis

  1. Nicholas says:

    Father,

    Thanks for defining liberation theology, I had never seen a good explanation before reading this piece. I also think we Americans need to understand that, unlike Benedict, we are from an entirely different world than Francis.

  2. Gerard Plourde says:

    I think that the learning curve goes both ways. We tend to forget that the American economic system was mainly created from a Protestant viewpoint and therefore is subject to the heretical errors that go with that understanding of man’s relationship to God, man’s relationship to his fellows and the role or, more precisely, the lack of a role that society (as distinct from government) plays in ensuring that human beings are treated with dignity and afforded good working conditions, a living wage and are not forced into seeking government aid to avoid poverty. The role of government is to ensure that employers not exploit workers and that workers provide good and diligent work for their employers. [Govt’s role is to see if workers are doing a good days work for their wage? No… this is a rabbit hole. Now it is a CLOSED rabbit hole.] These principles undergird Catholic Social Teaching and have been consistently taught most recently in the line of encyclicals beginning with Leo XIII’s “Rerum Novarum” through Benedict XVI’s “Caritas in Veritate”.

  3. StnyPtGuy says:

    But that’s not capitalism in Argentina. Capitalism there is where a few people use the contracts given by the state without taking the risk of the market make an enormous amount of money and oppress other people. It is a capitalism created by the State.

    There’s a word for it now here: crony capitalism. It is becoming more and more the way things are done here. Unfortunately.

  4. Antonin says:

    Francis’ contribution is not just pastoral, it is doctrinal. And the doctrine that he is advancing is the social teaching of the Catholic church which does not fit neatly into the kind of ideological boxes of the West. Although, if we had to put in a place, that place would be in democratic socialism as Benedict XVI opined in Europe and its discontents (2006, January). In this regard, Francis is indeed following on the heels of Benedict and in perfect continuity with him.

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2006/01/europe-and-its-discontents

    “In many respects, democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.” Taken from this article

  5. JPK says:

    I think it is very difficult if not impossible to define economic theories without bring in moral theology. This in itself might seem absurd, as they see economics as being within the realm of Reason and not Revelation. Yet, as any priest will tell you any business decision is ultimately a moral decision.

    I once worked as an IT specialist for a small factory ($100 million/year revenues). The factory was formed by 3 friends, with one friend being the major owner of equity. Over 13 years it grew from a small part time fabrication shop (perhaps $75000 during the first year of business with 5 part time employers) to nice family owned business employing 100 hourly and salaried workers. The owner and his partners are all Catholics, they went to the same Catholic Schools, as well as they attended a major Midwest Catholic University (known for football). Many of the workers came from surrounding neighborhoods, attended the same Catholic schools and parishes the owners came from. Everyone was paid more than a “living wage”; and the owners lived in the same aging, ethnic neighborhoods of their employees. Sounds like a typical American success story.

    Well, behind the scenes, things were not so well. The owners were working themselves into an early grave. The majority owner would find himself at 0800 in the morning negotiating with a customer new price concessions; but, ay 0500PM he was at the loading docks supervising a shipment of the a product to a new customer he could not afford to lose. And while the business was certainly growing, it was very cash poor. There was an incident when an AP clerk had her purse stolen, and she had her un-cashed paycheck in it. The owner, told her to go to Payroll and he would sign another paycheck for her. But, there was a problem. The Treasurer said there wasn’t enough cash in their main accounts to cover the extra payroll. The owner, instead paid the clerk out of his own pocket (he was that kind of owner).

    To make a long story short, the owner sold the business to a Fortune 1000 Corporation out of Milwaukee. He and his partners received $20 million for the business. Over the next 8 years, the corporation “realigned” payroll to reflect what they thought was “equitable” pay. They couldn’t fire the “overpaid” workers, so they just eliminated their positions and created new positions at less pay. They also brought in hundreds of “temps” (usually undocumented illegals) from local staffing firms. Over time, the old timers left the company. Most of the tooling which was done in house was sent to China. The company’s bottom line improved considerably, as labor costs, and material costs were ruthlessly cut. I left the company 6 years ago when my position was eliminated (an outside IT contract firm was brought in to do my job at a big cost savings). Five years ago, the Recession decimated much of the customer base for the company, and earlier this year the Fortune 1000 Corporation sold the business to a competitor for $25 million.

    I’m only recounting this story to show how a local Catholic businessman did it right. However, the business he created was also killing him and he got out at a good time. Yet, for the people that also built their lives around that business didn’t reap the end profits that he and his original partners reaped. Most found employment at other factories or engineering firms. But, like most middle class families, their over-all wages or salaries have been stagnant. In the end, that nice little factory joins a long list of other empty businesses in my neighborhood. I don’t see just vacant parking lots and empty warehouses; I see a lost connection between people, families, workers, and owners. Like many of my former co-workers I no longer work where I live. I commute almost 100 miles a day, and I consider myself fortunate.

  6. StJude says:

    StnyPTGuy…you are right.. crony capitalism.

    From the little I have read about Argentina.. and the collapses.. they have nothing like American Capitalism. Its a class system in the extreme. and they are never rising above through hard work. If you are born poor.. you are dying poor.

  7. Elizabeth D says:

    I attended the same talk and I think Fr Z summarizes it well. It surprised me a bit and made me realize Pope Francis is coming out of an Argentine Catholic intellectual culture that is well developed and unknown to me and thus it is perhaps unsurprising that Americans are poorly equipped to decipher Pope Francis. The part about Alberto Methol Ferré and the South American vision of their “manifest destiny” and the negative view of the wealthy, “protestant” North related to that was definitely new to me.

  8. The Masked Chicken says:

    I am afraid that I am economically illiterate (the math is too arbitrary and made-up), however, I have heard of similar views to Hayek’s, who, as I surmise, tried to argue that hard scientific methods are, often, improperly exported to the soft sciences by making arguments that histories and societies are under the control of a few underlying rules, which, if we can only discover, will lead to a utopia. Hayek argues that one cannot apply objective methods to a subjective domain.

    What to say? John von Neumann, the famous mathematician and father of modern computers, in his book based on the Silliman lectures he gave at Yale in 1957, The Computer and the Brain, argued that the computer is fundamentally different than the brain in that the brain can work with sparse, fuzzy data and still recover meaning, whereas a single comma which is misplaced in a computer program can crash a spaceship on Mars (yes, something like this actually happened). The enormous plasticity and flexibility of the brain, he argues, must be based on a sort of statistical processing of information, which cannot easily be made to happen with a computer, which works by processing ones and zeros. This is, essentially, Hayek’s argument as well as the famous philisopher of science, Karl Popper’s, argument regarding the place of scientific rigor when applied to societies. Popper wrote a book, The Open Society, also in the 1950’s. The two men became friends and advocated limitations on the use of science in understanding how societies and economies work. Man is always able to change his mind and do unexpected things, so he is not constrained, as Nature is, by immutable Laws.

    At the same time, however, and in the same decade, Isaac Asimov was writing his seminal science fiction work, The Foundation Trilogy, which proposed the science of, “psychohistory,” which saw all of society, in-the-large, reduced to a sort of statistical theory, like the movements of molecules in a gas, whereby one could not predict the individual movements of a single individual, but, collectively, one could predict the group actions.

    In the same decade, the longshoreman-philosopher, Eric Hoffer, wrote the masterpiece, The True Believer, which, while not making any hard-and-fast laws, developed a working theory of large group dynamics for the disaffected.

    In other words, the 1950’s, especially after WWII, saw the divergence of thinking men into two large camps: the objectivist and the subjectivist. The objectivist believed that behavior could be predicted and influenced; the subjectivist believed that societies were contingent and heavily influenced by external events. Paradoxically, the objectivists would go on to become the modern liberals, whereas the subjectivists would go on to become the modern conservatives, but this is an over-simplification (which is useful, for the moment).

    There were attempted reconciliations of these positions in the 1960’s, with such mathematical theories as Haken’s, Synergetics, which proposed that society needed parts of both objective and subjective inputs.

    It may seem paradoxical to say that the objectivists became the modern liberals, but one need only look behind the modern liberal agenda to see the really tight control they secretly want to exercise. In the sciences, control of an experiment and its parameters is key. Likewise, liberal will attempt to control society by the application of a small number of certain rules, like, “be tolerant,” that are taken to the extreme. It is not that there should be no rules, but, rather, that rules should not be so rigorously applied as to start making men into impersonal widgets. Liberalism, inevitably, leads to collectivism.

    I realize I will get argued against for that last paragraph and that is fine. I do not pretend to understand societal thinking, as insane as it often is. I just throw that out as kindling for someone who has better lights to start a fire.

    Hayek, on the other hand, was, I think, wrong in giving up the possibility that science and mathematics could adequately, if not perfectly, describe some aspects of human behavior. They were frequentists as far as statistics goes, which is the mindset that says that one can measure properties of a system and fit the data according to the probability of the properties existing. One constructs an hypothesis and runs experiments to see how likely the hypothesis is in explaining the results. If 75% of all people like Sniggly Gum, then one can use this measure as a basis for the likelihood that Sniggly Gum will sell better than Wooky Gum, which only 50% of people like. The hypothesis would be that Sniggly should, all things being equal, outperform Wooky. One runs the test, etc. I realize I am over-simplifying statistical sampling, etc., but this is a comment box, not a textbook.

    There is another form of probability, called Bayesian statistics, where the probabilities are determined subjectively. You are walking down a street and you see a guy give a black box to a girl. You make an initial, subjective, probability assessment that there is a 90% chance the guy is going to propose to her. The probability is continually modified by what happens, next. In one scenario, the girl laughs and hugs the guy. The probability goes to 95%. In another scenario, the girl pulls out a jeweler’s loupe and starts examining the diamond ring. The probability falls to 60% that the guy is proposing.

    Since the 1950’s Bayesian statistics has come a long way and had Hayek understood about it, he might have understood that one can factor in subjectivity into the math. It is, now, generally believed that the brain processes information by Bayesian statistics. Had von Neumann known about Bayesian statistics in 1957, he, almost certainly, would have become a proponent of its use, since it satisfies the exact criteria he proposed for the difference between the computer and the brain.

    In my own research in humor, one can use Bayesian statistical methods to understand how the brain processes humorous scripts. Although Hayek would argue that words are societal constructs, one can show that they are Bayesian constructs, being modified according to new information in somewhat predictable fashion.

    I realize that I am writing a perfectly useless comment, not pertaining to economics at all, but if Buttiglione is citing Hayek’s book as something Pope Francis should read, then one had better understand its limitations.

    By the way, there is a simple set of rules governing the actions of society-as-a whole. In fact, there are Ten of them, starting, “I am the Lord thy God…” How much the price of chicken costs, is merely a second-order effect of the first Ten rules. One ignores them at one’s peril.

    The Chicken

    [Wow. That was fun!]

  9. PA mom says:

    Very interesting post.

    Crony capitalism does seem the term to best describe what happens down there. I am not surprised by any of what JPK describes. My own parents decided not to sell, but to cease building in their business, but growing an active business and even maintaining one can be every bit stressful enough to the point of physical collapse. That is why it distresses me to hear business owners pointed to as the cause of all inequalities and problems. Our family was quite fair, as I was doing the paying, I am certain as I can be.

    A very interesting insight as to our Pope’s understanding of economic things. Look forward to his visit to the States soon.

  10. Antonin says:

    Re: objectivists and subjectivists.

    Much of Catholic social teaching (and sexual teaching for that matter, including teaching on contraception) is predicated on natural law. Further, it is predicated on the view that there is an “objective” truth that can be grasped by human reason. The common good is a natural notion and not a supernatural one.

    Consequently, our economic models should serve for the common good, and through reasoned exposition of the common good and natural law, all people of good will should be able to come to a consensus regarding economic policy.

    Yet, we see in the Church everything from oxymoronic libertarian Catholics to equally oxymoronic Marxist Catholics. Each arguing that their position is in accord with Catholic tradition. Can reason settle this as the Thomists so hoped or must it be authority?

    In short is there one kind of human reason or multiple forms of human reason? Benedict in his famous Regensburg address argues that God, according to Christian revelation, acts according to Divine reason and this could be grasped by humans.

  11. robtbrown says:

    With all due respect to Pope Francis, if he wanted to use Argentinian (or S American) capitalism as a reference point for economics, then the universal audience of an Apostolic Exhortation probably is not the proper avenue. Perhaps a document addressed to the S American bishops would have been the way to go.

  12. robtbrown says:

    If I might make one comment about European Democratic Socialism, which I might have made here before: The reason for its success is that there has been a Sugar Daddy that footed the bill not only for the defense of Europe but also to keep the world shipping lanes open. European military budgets have been little else than nominal.

  13. Kathleen10 says:

    JPK, thank you for sharing that. That was a very sobering experience to read about. As an American, I feel pretty sure your experience has been repeated here in the states too many times.
    @Chicken, that was very interesting, and I just wanted to say I agree with you on the controlling aspect of today’s American liberals. The level of attempted control of the behavior, speech, and even thoughts of others never fails to surprise me. I wonder how it came to be that so many Americans simply don’t seem to remember true freedom or value real liberty any longer, and want very much to control others. How fast it all occurred! Where were all these tyrants 30 years ago?

  14. Traductora says:

    As somebody who knows and has worked with a lot of Latin Americans, I just want to caution against thinking that Argentine anything is representative of Latin America. Argentinians are often considered very arrogant and removed from the cultural life of Latin America, since they have both a heavy Brtitish and German influence and of course a massive Italian influence, which even affects their accent. One of the things they boast about is how non-Spanish they are.

    They also do not have an influential Indian-mestizo population because of the peculiar details of their history. And their patchy connection with the rest of Latin America reflects the impact of European powers other than Spain, and is also the result of the huge Italian immigration (of which the Pope is a product) that still identifies with Italy. I have heard Argentinians boast that they have not a drop of Spanish blood.

    This is an important consideration and I think it accounts for some of his confusion about economics, colonial history, and even about Europe.

  15. robtbrown says:

    JPK,

    Yours is a not an uncommon story. At the base of such situations is not greed or theft–it is the influence of technology on business. Technology has shortened the product cycle, changed the nature of manufacturing, distribution, and marketing as well as shaken up the number and type of employee. It has also in tended to de-stabilize the customer base.

  16. Mike says:

    Kathleen10 says: How fast it all occurred! Where were all these tyrants 30 years ago?

    Many of them were attending, or had been recently graduated from, the institutions of higher learning — not a few of them nominally “Catholic” — that had become politically correct seminaries of statism (for those being groomed for elite leadership roles) and of class warfare (for those foreseen to be the ground forces of revolution). Genuine, organic social models had long since been condemned as tools of “obsolescence,” “irrelevancy,” and “patriarchal oppression.”

    One need but study the French Revolution, or any “popular” revolution since then, to observe the horrors that are introduced when the “oppressed” become the oppressors. Those disinclined to such study may yet be compelled to witness the consequences of present-day parallels as the collapse of Western civilization continues to hurl mankind toward the poles of totalitarianism and anarchy.

  17. Antonin says:

    Speaking of socialism, the military industrial complex feeds on itself and could do with much more efficiency. It is a sugar daddy all right! My nephew served in Afghanistan performing such key strategic objectives as building a golf course in the middle of the desert! I respect his service but think that a lot of the objectives could be met in a much more cost effective fashion.

  18. Mojoron says:

    My fur bristle’s at the sound of Liberation Theology. You can call it whatever you want, up here in the north, where we have seen countless communistic leaders come and go in the south, they often misrepresent Mother Church as being in favor of redistribution of wealth for the “poor.” That “theology” is much akin to the hogwash that our democratic socialists use here in the north—again to help the poor, but instead, lining their own pockets much like the rascal’s did in the south.

    Argentina is a very interesting economic treatise that goes in cycles. In the 1880’s Argentina was the pearl of the south. Much riches, political graft and not much money getting out of the back pockets of the uber-rich. Much like what is happening now, the economy went south and many of the rich lost much of their wealth. Interestingly enough, the economic roller coaster happens about once a century. I guess it’s time again for a little upheaval.

    I would be absolutely surprised if Francis does not have a good understanding of Argentina’s fiscal history, at least understanding what it means for governmental control of the economy and the economy going into the toilet soon thereafter.

  19. When pro-abortion zealots vandalized a Chilean Roman Catholic cathedral on July 26, 2013, it came right on the heels of Pope Francis’ closing remarks at World Youth Day on July 25, 2013 when he said at the impromptu July 25 meeting, in the Cathedral of San Sebastian, “What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day?” Francis said. “I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!”

    Somehow, someway, it appears that only liberals and pro-abortion zealots believe that Francis is on their side.

  20. Pingback: Pope Francis Calls for Synod on the Family - BigPulpit.com

  21. marcelus says:

    Fr. read Robert Potash. He has 3 books on Argentina history that are excellent,. I read them when I was 15. This is one of them and they explore our history from 1928 until the 80’s if I’m not mistaken. They are excelllent. Some may be foud in Amazon but I believe in Spanish?

    http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=2288

    As for the reference to the trickle down ttranslation from the original “derrame” he used in EG , I suppose originally written in spanish for the word derrame stands for spill or overflow, like spilling from a glass when it filles all the way up.

    In the 90’s, the so called “liberal” economy (yes, a liberal in Latam would be an economic and sometimes potilical cosnervative in NA) reigned in much of Latam, Brazil , Argentina, being the 2 most powerful and largest countries, Peru and much of the rest as well as some other “peripheral ” places in the world.

    I’m a lawyer and far from beign anything close to an economist, I may tell you in simple terms what happened in some of these countries in those years. I was there. Or at least Argentina.

    As you may know or not, In these countries, public encployement was an important part of of the labor scene. In the 90’s,during Menem’s Presidency, there was like a mantra , recited by the “Liberal” media that indicated that the state had to stay way from the market at all cost. Argentina’s huge state owned companies were sold, then , to the private sector.Obviouly they dowsized, and unenployment took it’s toll. Argentina then gave away most energy companies, sold the railroads (in turn the new owners dismanteled the system, and until today lots of places in the middle of nowhere in Argentina are isolated),Oil company, ELectricity and so on.

    New labor laws went into effect (demanded by the large Multinational and local companies) that allowed the to hire people for 3 months on trial, and then you could be fired with no right to indemnization. SO the owners just kept hiring and firing people endlessly)

    And as yo umay know, the ARS was paired ficticiouly to the US$, 1 peso=1 dollar. It all exploted back in 2001 when people tried to draw their savings from the banks and it turned out they where not there!!

    Unenployemment, social unrest and so.

    Similar to what happend in Icelanda couple of years back.

    It’s a lot longer than that, but this kind of “capitalism” (lot’s will say : Ohh that is not capitalism or that has nothing to do withwell understood capitalism) caused tragedy in much of the Lamerican continent and poverty.Call it whaever you will. That is part of what is called Capitalismo salvaje”or “wild capitalism”in Latam.

    Now, we have not managed to do much better from there on . but that’s another story,

    Up until the 40’s , Argentina was one of the richest nations on earth (Still is for alll that matters in terms of natural resources, oil, grains and cattle being the top). But back then,It ranked # 5 or 6 as one of the richest.Producing commodities the world needed made us rich.

    Though the country was politicaly “coherent”, the power remained in the hands of an Elite (this is what still happens in Chile for instance). Most of them , land owners, And also in the hands of the military, who for the first time , overthrew a democratic government in 1930. These repesented the “conservative” sector in Argentina.

    The term “justicialismo” dated back to the 40’s, when Peron saw the opportunity to perform some “social justice” on belhaf of the poor. There was absolutely no labor legislation in Argentina

    Communist , socialist and anarquist formed the first powerfull labor unions and “enlightened” the urban and countryside labor.-

    So, Peron, took over the 1943 military government’s labor office and bugun “working” for the masses. And so he started to shape his movement in the form of the Italian Fascist party (he had been a military attache in Italy before). There is a famous presentation Peron did to American bussines men where he mentiones “look , either give the workers what I propose, or they will become communist ,but we have too do something for them before this happens”

    So, Justicialismo. came about after the 1946b election that he won running under the “labor party” ticked.

    Social reforms such as women’s voting right in 1949, vacations (they were not allowed to do that), health benefits, public schools,hospitals etc, and so on-

    Then it all got mixed with a social doctrine and a political stand, the 3rd way Peronism, compared to Capitalism and communism. Thus Peronism came about. They still call themselves a movement, As such it had a left wing (which started the bloodshed of the 70’s) and a right wing. Francis is oftened mentioned here as having been “close” to righ wing groups of peronism in those years. But hey,m any Argentinian, any,will recognize some aspects of peronism.

    Try to find the Potash book if you are interested in the subject.

    With regard toEG, annd PF views here is something from the NYT , comparing thee last 2 Popes on that,..

    “Yes, Pope Francis critiqued “trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market alone, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice.”
    But (pace Limbaugh), Francis also blasted Marxism, if not in the same speech: “The ideology of Marxism is wrong,” he said in December.
    It’s not like Benedict XVI (whom Binelli compared to Freddy Krueger) was an apostle of Milton Friedman either: “Both capitalism and Marxism promised to point out the path for the creation of just structures,” he said in 2007. “And this ideological promise has proven false.
    Capitalism, Benedict continued, left a “distance between rich and poor” and is “giving rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity.”
    Pope John Paul II showed perhaps the most enthusiasm for capitalism of any pope, yet even he said, “There are many human needs which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied.” He warned against a “radical capitalistic ideology” that lacks an “ethical and religious” core”

    Traductora Says:
    Traductora says:
    27 September 2014 at 6:26 pm
    As somebody who knows and has worked with a lot of Latin Americans, I just want to caution against thinking that Argentine anything is representative of Latin America. Argentinians are often considered very arrogant and removed from the cultural life of Latin America, since they have both a heavy Brtitish and German influence and of course a massive Italian influence, which even affects their accent. One of the things they boast about is how non-Spanish they are.”

    Mmmmm-so so. The Buenos Aires native “may” be considered arrogant , not all Argentinians.
    But it is true, most of us came from boats 100 and some years ago.

    Though allow me to say that in Argentina today reside a lot of people from Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia etc, They come to work , study (free all the way up to college)and get medical care (free also. and Imean FREE). Unlike most of the rest of Latam. So the population ethnicity may change in the future.

    In terms of Lib. Theology, Francis never had anything to do with that, other that saving some people and priests in the 70’s that adhered to this tendency. There’s a certain kind of ” Argentinian Theology” that may apply, but it is mostly based in thee social doctrine of the Church,nothing to do with marxism,

    Lost the point triying to cover much. Sorry. God bless.

  22. Polycarpio says:

    Latin American here; not Argentinian. Nonetheless, I do think, to state the obvious, to understand Latin America is as crucial to understanding Francis as understanding Poland and understanding the Cold War was to understanding St. John Paul. But this has more to do with defining terminology and seeing the points of reference than it does with understanding the ultimate conclusions. JPII, Francis, and even Adrian VI (the last non-Italian pope before Wojtyla) are all Popes, and all Catholics. Having said that, so much is lost in translation when Francis comes through the spin cycle that I constantly bemoan the lack of Latin American Catholic commentators interpreting Francis.

  23. Can we all chip in and post him good Spanish translations of von Mises, Michael Novak and possibly Tea Party Catholic?

    It’s his name-day feast day coming up next Sunday …

  24. Matthew Gaul says:

    I learned a lot of Latin America’s history with the US from the book “Puritan’s Empire,” by the always delightful Catholic author Charles Coulombe.

    I had no idea of the extent of our constant selfish meddling down there, going way-way back, and almost always in support of the local anti-Catholics. It’s no wonder there is disdain for the United States.

  25. Kerry says:

    The Masked Australorps wrote:

    “Liberalism, inevitably, leads to collectivism.
    I realize I will get argued against for that last paragraph and that is fine.”
    Au contraire Masked Gallus. From Centesimus annus:
    “…we have to add that the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil. Man is thus reduced to a series of social relationships, and the concept of the person as the autonomous subject of moral decision disappears, the very subject whose decisions build the social order.”

  26. Unwilling says:

    Our personal life experience (sex, mother tongue, family dynamics, religion, social level, childhood schooling, local industries, geography, etc.) happens to us.

    The cards we are dealt. How do we play them?

    In entering adult life we form and cultivate our own moral character. We choose what to read. We choose our associations and freely participate in whatever conversations. We perceive and understand and come to conclusions with more or less self-discipline. When we speak, we do so chastely, charitably, edifyingly. We are careful not to cause scandal to others. We are modest in our opinions and do not seek to alarm without cause or to astonish for a boast. That’s as adults.

  27. DeGaulle says:

    Just a comment on what little I have heard of Alberto Methol Ferré. One of this man’s grave concerns was the rise of what he described as “libertine atheism” and the huge threat it posed for society. I think the term would describe the militant imposition of the sexual revolution that is being experienced throughout the world. Ferré was also of the view that it was pointless appealing to either Authority or Reason when dealing with the libertines and that the only hope of influencing them, or at least the people under their thrall, was by the example of leading good Catholic lives. Apparently, Pope Francis was greatly influenced by this theologian and perhaps it is in this context we must interpret his comments on such subjects as atheists and field hospitals.

  28. robtbrown says:

    The Masked Chicken says:

    I am afraid that I am economically illiterate (the math is too arbitrary and made-up) . . .

    The problem with economics is that there are push-pull components. Various schools of thought emphasize various components–thus the arbitrary math. The math is subject to political ideology.

    What the economy needs at a particular time might not be the same as what is needed at another time. For example, low interest rates stimulate the economy, but they also reduce the income of with CD’s. Further, low interest rates can overheat certain sectors. That causes bubbles (cf Domestic real estate), and sooner or later bubbles pop, leaving huge debt that is unserviceable.

    Another way of looking at it is from GK Chesterton: Too much capitalism means too few capitalists

    John von Neumann, the famous mathematician and father of modern computers, in his book based on the Silliman lectures he gave at Yale in 1957, The Computer and the Brain, argued that the computer is fundamentally different than the brain in that the brain can work with sparse, fuzzy data and still recover meaning, whereas a single comma which is misplaced in a computer program can crash a spaceship on Mars (yes, something like this actually happened). The enormous plasticity and flexibility of the brain, he argues, must be based on a sort of statistical processing of information, which cannot easily be made to happen with a computer, which works by processing ones and zeros.

    1. Did you know that John von Neumann, born a Jew, became Catholic? He fell away and then was said to have returned toward the end of his life.

    2. Not to demean Neumann’s contribution to computers,but the mathematical foundation of the relational data base belongs to EF Codd. Further, it is not mathematics that has driven the digital revolution, but the invention of the transistor, followed by the integrated circuit, which was followed by the microchip, and finally the microprocessor.

    3. My years in the world of software development left me with the understanding that the value of any computer program depends on how thoroughly the designers are able to anticipate the input (the rule used to be that 25% of every program is Error Routine). Generally, artificial intelligence varies how data is processed because of the processing of previous data.

    The big money made by hedge funds is a function of computer technology, which allows very complex and subtle hedging.

    IMHO, the cooling of the economy 7 years ago was caused by the spike in oil prices. IMHO, a principal cause of that spike was US trade deficit, which not only devalued the dollar but also inflated the value of securities. Cooling an economy loaded with debt means big problems.

    4. The upshot of this is that any projection (e.g., Economic or Global Warming) is only as valuable as the knowledge of future circumstances is comprehensive. The use of computers increases the number of variables of the input, but this can produce a false confidence in the value of the projection: It demands a knowledge of future circumstances that is very difficult or impossible to understand. Assumptions are the consequence.

  29. Gratias says:

    Justicialismo means Peronismo. General Juan Perón and his wife Evita were demagogues that destroyed the economy of one of the richest countries in the world. They were Fascist sympathizers who distributed riches that came from the productive agricultural sectors to secure votes through the class struggle. Papa Francisco is Peronista as are the majority of Argentinians who keep voting for these people since the 1940s as their country sinks with respect to the rest of the world.

    About 1954 General Perón sent his proletarian mob, called descamisados or shirtless, to burn down Catholic Churches in Buenos Aires. That was his downfall. Most educated Catholics at that time were anti-Peronistas so the case of Bergoglio indicates he is special.

    Peronistas (and Liberation Theology=Marxists) think Latinamerican economic problems come from Yankee Imperialism that exploits them. It was all put together in a famous 1968 book by Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano called “Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina”. This was just before Gutierrez started his poisonous Liberation Theology which, like Peronism, still throttles development of the Continent today. While Argentina keeps this ideological war it will keep its lowly place in the concert of nations: in default.

    Justicialismo is not what the world economy needs.

  30. Gratias says:

    Thank you Pollo Enmascarado for your scholarly post.

  31. Mike says:

    robtbrown says: . . . the rule used to be that 25% of every [computer] program is Error Routine . . .

    Engineering rabbit hole alert: As often as not, that rule seems to be honored more in the breach than in the observance. Thus we end up with meltdowns like that at healthcare.gov when websites cannot gracefully handle exceptional conditions such as too many user requests at once.

    A sound programming rule is the Anna Karenina principle, which adapts the first line of Tolstoy’s eponymous novel to account for the fact that happy cases are all alike, but every exception is exceptional in its own way. Taking this fact into account, good software code includes in its error processing a well-considered “otherwise” clause to handle unforeseen exceptions.

    One hopes that the Anna Karenina principle (only the second part of which, by the way, is strictly true) is not as blithely applied — or, worse yet, dismissed — by the upcoming bishops’ assemblies as it is in some of the engineering shops I’ve worked with.

  32. martin.c says:

    Argentinian here. Peronismo and Justicialismo are two different names for the same thing: the “Peronista” party had to change its name due to a new law which forbade political parties to include personal references in their names, so they re-branded it “Justicialista” party.

    The main idea behind justicialismo/peronismo is not about economy or politics, it is about power. The peronist leader thinks: “The best thing that can happen to the country is not freedom or development or peace or education or whatever… the best thing that can happen to the country is ME. Therefore I have to amass as much power as I can, and for that I have to amass as much wealth as I can. Once I have the power, I will bring peace and prosperity. Somehow.”

    That’s why you have liberal peronists, conservative peronists, marxist peronists, keynessian peronists, libertarian peronists, and so ad nausseam, because actual ideas about how to actually govern are secondary, the primary thing for the peronist is for he/she to be the one ruling.

    Of course, they say that peronismo is about bringing social development to the poor. That may be true, but they don’t have any clear idea of how to actually achieve that. Some of them think that it is all about giving money and stuff to the people for free, others have some degree of formal socioeconomic thought. But power always comes first. If a peronist government has to choose between the welfare of the nation and power, the answer is always power. And if a peronist leader have to choose between his/her beliefs and power, the answer is, again, power.

    So, if you have a vague desire for “social justice” and are willing to support whatever peronist is above you in the ladder in order to eventually take your turn there, that’s enough to be a peronist. Sociopolitical discussions are not to be had within the party. The most famous peronist adaggio is “Que se doble pero que no se rompa”, which roughly means, “let it bend but never break”. A marxist peronist and a capitalist peronist will sing the peronist march together and affirm that “the best thing which can happen to a peronist is another peronist”. Because they will support each other when the time comes. Schisms within the peronist party are always about power, never about doctrines or beliefs.

    So, if you think that Pope Francis will bring collegiality to the Church you are dead wrong: it is his time to hold the power and he will use it. He will allow some form of collegiality but only for those thing which he does not care about, and only if he has no choice.

    And, btw, doctrine is one of those things.

  33. Pat says:

    Padre, you can watch this even it is a panel discussion in Italian this summer in the Rimini meeting on Methol’s influence on the Pope http://www.meetingrimini.org/default.asp?id=673&item=6156

  34. B Knotts says:

    Crony capitalism and Marxism share a common theme: they are statist, command-and-control approaches to governance.

  35. DeGaulle says:

    A pope isn’t there for his economic expertise. Despite the reservations of martin.c, I find it reassuring that a pope might have dictatorial, autocratic tendencies rather than collegial, democratic (=opinion poll) tendencies. martin.c asserts that Pope Francis doesn’t care about doctrine. Maybe that’s better because most of the clerics nowadays that claim to do so want to change it.

    Regarding economics, much of the discussion seems to lead to the subject of debt. This is all the fault of the international banking system. This system is the real HQ of the Satanic colonial power on this Earth. I recommend the writings of Major Douglas on this subject as can be found in that lovely, orthodox Catholic publication, “Michael” magazine (they have a website too, just google it).

  36. Kathleen10 says:

    Thank you all for such interesting commentary. I enjoy learning about different cultures and systems, and this was informative. It is particularly interesting in light of Pope Francis and what may influence him.

  37. Supertradmum says:

    I do not like Hayek or Popper and I cut my teeth on Hoffer. I do not like Peron, nor Keynes.

    The Catholic Church will not support either socialism, which She has condemned, nor unbridled capitalism, nor any system which does not consider the role of the Church as being protected by the State, which means the Church has a right, as well as a duty, to step in and clarify a State’s duty to citizens regarding economics. The trouble with Argentina or any other South American country is the very different history, outside of the Anglo-Saxon tradition of common law and trade, and outside of the Roman tradition of set rules.

    The Church must be part of the discussion regarding economics and one system which the most recent Popes have put forward is subsidiarity. Until government allow for localized governments and move away from big government and tyrannies, subsidiarity will not work.

    Sadly, one of the results of Original Sin is the search for power. Pride and greed spoil most economic systems.

    But, I am afraid the Vatican is several steps behind reality, which is the growth of global wealth outside of the limits of nation-states. Global economy, global banking, the control of monies and draconian taxation in American (FACTA) are part of the real problems never address by Rome.

    Until Popes look at the globalization which has ruined free commerce and really address it, all these other, frankly, outdated systems, cannot stand up to the reality of the one world banking group. Small is beautiful and few economists are brave enough to state this obvious solution to the elephant in the room-one world government.

    We are seeing planned take overs and undermining of the dollar, the Euro and other currencies. Until the Vatican addresses the fact that so-called democratic leaders are no longer establishing and carrying on global banking and global industry, the situation with gross inequalities will continue. No citizen can vote for economic policies in either North or South America–that is all show and myth.

    By the way, one of the highest ranking bankers in the European bank is a Marxist–no one cares anymore as long as the elite get rich.

  38. marcelus says:

    Leaving all that aside, Argentina is still a great place to visit.

  39. Pingback: Morning Catholic must-reads: 29/09/14 | CHRONICA

  40. Ignatius says:

    Fr. Z says: “Justicialismo… good grief. Who of us up here in the North can grasp what on earth has gone on in Argentina? The more I read about the place, and its modern history, the less I understand. Do you have be Argentinian to get it? ”
    Well, I am Argentinian and I live here. I still don’t get what is going on here. Undoubtedly, it is a complex thing.
    But, in addition, Pope Francis’ psychology is complex also. I had him as my archbishop. The man is not easy to understand.
    Best regards.

  41. jmgarciajr says:

    I’ll try not to rehash what has been commented above, which has been extremely useful to those unfamiliar with the Holy Father’s background.

    (By way of disclosure, I have many relatives in Argentina as well as assorted clients there, so although my personal background leans more to Cuba/Spain than Argentina, I am relatively informed on the situation and history.)

    One thing to note, especially if one reads the Holy Father in the original Spanish/Italian (rather than the almost uniformly unfortunate English translations, especially the “official” ones) is his exhortation to entrepreneurship. He mentions it in his message to the assembled at Davos:

    “Pope Francis on Tuesday called on the world’s political and business elite gathered in Davos to use their spirit of entrepreneurship to alleviate crushing global poverty.” (CNS)

    He also says as much in Evangelii Gaudium: “The private ownership of goods is justified by the need to protect and INCREASE THEM.” #189 (Emphasis mine.)
    and
    “The vocation of entrepreneur is a noble charge, provided it allows a broader understanding [literally, “sense”] of life; this will enable [the entrepreneur] to truly serve the good of all by multiplying of, and increasing the access to, all the goods of this world.” (Translation mine, in both cases.)

    I believe it’s fair to say that while in the American mind, our “default” understanding of the term “Capitalism” is closely alloyed with entrepreneurial efforts, with things such as “crony capitalism” and “laissez faire” being understood as aberrations of it…in Argentina (as in much of Latin America) it’s actually the converse; capitalism is understood as being cronyism and the like.

    At any rate, if you read carefully what the Holy Father says, you will note he regards entrepreneurial efforts rather favorably.

  42. MB says:

    I don’t agree with your assessment of how trickle down economics works Fr. Z. The trickle down effect is not dependent on charitable activity. [You are disagreeing with something that I didn’t claim.] It just means that as we buy our second boat, we will seek a boat-builder, and a store to by life preservers, and a shop that sells boat shoes, and a man that can teach us how to sail….as a wealthy man spends his money it “trickles down” to all of these other related businesses.

    The problem inherent in liberation theology is that even if it doesn’t reduce Jesus from the Son of God to an earthly revolutionary (which it often does), it still pits the poor against the rich. It still justifies the theft of the wealth of the middle class through taxation and inflation to provide for the poor. This provides a dis-incentive to work, since you have no hope of bettering your own circumstances but are simply enslaved to those who receive the benefits of our labor. Of course socialists know socialism doesn’t work – it has always been a tactic used to grab power. But, it sounds like the epitome of charity, and that’s how they get away with it.

  43. franruizg says:

    Perón is the man who transformed my country in what it is today using demagogy to spend all the money the previous governments had accumulated with a lot of effort. He adapted what he said depending on the listeners. He had many national catholics in his governement and then he ended lighting fire to many churches in Buenos Aires.
    If you ever come to Buenos Aires you will notice that everything nice you see was built or made before Perón.
    The ’55 catholic revolutionists thought that it was more “catholic” to say “no winners or loosers” instead of judging him with death penalty. So he continued to made disasters like helping the marxists terrorists and then condemning them.
    Perón was from the right, left and center at the same time. Is this familiar to you? :)
    He gave a great thomist speech at an international conference of philosophy, founded the paralegal Argentine Anticomunnist Aliance and he supported the marxists terrorists.
    He was a very bad person. “After me the universal flood”. He just thought about himself, about accumulating power under the fachade of “helping the poor”, by giving them fish instead of learning how to fish.
    He was a fascist and his economic theories are those of a fascist.
    Regarding the Pope, he has already said that he does not understand a thing about economics. So please do not try to find the fifth leg on a cat. Maybe you did not know this because I think I read it in spanish in the other 123,232 interviews he gives to the argentine media.

  44. robtbrown says:

    Mike says:
    robtbrown says: . . . the rule used to be that 25% of every [computer] program is Error Routine . . .

    Engineering rabbit hole alert: As often as not, that rule seems to be honored more in the breach than in the observance. Thus we end up with meltdowns like that at healthcare.gov when websites cannot gracefully handle exceptional conditions such as too many user requests at once.

    My point, which was poorly said, is that every program (or system) is a projection based on the assumption that the input data has been well anticipated. And so projections like Global Warming, Economic, or Obamacare cannot be as precisely accurate as they claim.

    When I first began to study Chemistry, we were taught the Bohr atom: Here is an electron in this orbit, here is one in another orbit, etc. Later, that precisely defined atom changed so that an electron is not in an orbit but a cloud . . . maybe.

  45. The Masked Chicken says:

    “2. Not to demean Neumann’s contribution to computers,but the mathematical foundation of the relational data base belongs to EF Codd. Further, it is not mathematics that has driven the digital revolution, but the invention of the transistor, followed by the integrated circuit, which was followed by the microchip, and finally the microprocessor.”

    In terms of computer software, the relational database is a seminal work, but in terms of hardware, we still use the von Neumann architecture (at least until quantum computing takes off). It is interesting to know that Cobb wrote his dissertation on self-replication in cellular automata, which is an idea put forth, originally, by von Neumann. In fact, von Neumann proposed the use of self-replicating robot probes to explore the galaxy. For those who like DC comics, Bruce Timm, in an episode of the animated Justice League Unlimited series ( season one), entitled, Darkheart, explores exactly the proposal that von Nuemann made (and the Atom is introduced).

    As for hardware driving the computer revolution, well, that is debatable. The computer aboard Apollo 13 had 4k of memory, which seems to be enough to put a man on the moon. Could it have been done with mathematical handbooks? That’s a steampunky type question.

    I wonder if economic theories are related to DNA. Do Latin Americans produced different economic theories than Germans or Japanese? I have a suspicion that the answer is that it can color one’s economic outlook, although numbers are pretty independent of person.

    The Chicken

  46. The Masked Chicken says:

    “When I first began to study Chemistry, we were taught the Bohr atom: Here is an electron in this orbit, here is one in another orbit, etc. Later, that precisely defined atom changed so that an electron is not in an orbit but a cloud . . . maybe.”

    Technically, the Bohr orbit is recoverable from the modern solution to the Hydrogen atom, even though the interpretation of the math has changed to a probabilitstic interpretation. Bohr is not wrong so much as incomplete.

    This does raise an interesting question for the economists in the crowd: is economic theory converging towards truth, as science does? Nature is a fixed object, but man is fickle. Man is the only rational creature, but he is, also, the only irrational creature. We get more detail in our understanding of nature, but it seems as though there is no real growth in economic theory, just another point of view. I know that there are empirical results in economics, so why are theories based on them?

    The Chicken

  47. MB says:

    Oops, I thought when you wrote, “I’ll help the poor after I get my second boat,” that you were equating the trickle down mechanism with charity.

  48. KM Edwards says:

    Does it really matter what confused thoughts exist in the mind of Pope Bergoglio regarding economics? He’s confused about enough things …
    I’m praying that some good faithful Catholics will soon evangelize him and teach him the Catholic Faith … seriously, for starters, enough kneeling down at the feet of heretical ‘evangelical’ preachers looking for their ‘blessings’. Having him read a little booklet entitled “Confessions of a Roman Catholic” by ex-Methodist minister Paul Whitcomb would be a great start … it led to my conversion to the Roman Catholic Church when I was lost in the darkness of evangelicalism.

  49. pjthom81 says:

    Some observations and two questions for discussion from an American conservative:

    My observation, which may well be in error, is that the Church acts in economics by condemning excesses rather than in endorsing one particular policy or other. From this perspective, “unbridled capitalism” seems to me to refer to the tendency of some to excuse the plight of the poor as an economic condition against which nothing can be done. This is in turn based upon the 19th Century experience, and, more recently upon the crony capitalism experience in the 20th and 21st centuries. At the same time Marxism, a direct descendant of Jacobinism and its centralized atheistic tendencies, is a cure worse than the disease based as it is on a purely materialistic view of the world. There are many economic policies that fall in between and, to a great extent, everything that we are debating now…even tea party style libertarianism does fall in between those extremes (many tea partiers main issue with the welfare state seems to be that such a system is unconstitutional on the federal level. However, there is nothing keeping states from implementing their own systems).

    Trying to create a doctronaire third economic system has been a subject of great debate for much of the 20th century. My suspicion is that one does not exist and attempts to create such a system are futile. Alternatives have included distributism and corporatism, the latter of which was created in a command economy by fascists (in which I would include Peron) but which later got democratized and is the basis for, among others, the German and Italian economies. The success of the model in those countries has led to its popularity in many European and Latin American countries, although it is a foreign and incomprehensible item to many Americans. So my first question would be, to the extent that the Pope has economic ideas or instincts how much are they based off of some form of Corporatism? Second, is the Pope even trying to give a particular answer? His statement regarding failed ideologies has a Burkean ring to it, and it may be that he sees his job to highlight problems rather than to propose solutions.

  50. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Fr. Z,

    I just noticed your note to my comment. I think that I could have made the statement about government’s role in overseeing worker diligence clearer. I was referring to the respective obligations of contract whose provisions are enforced by the rule of law. It is true that the role of government is more direct in ensuring that employers not exploit workers but there are instances (mostly in the realm of the determining if the dismissal of an employee is for an improper reason) in which the government may be called upon to determine if an action by an employer was justified. While the focus is on the employer’s act, the action of the employee is also scrutinized.

  51. marcelus says:

    Huey P.Long would be “close” to Peron in some ways for Americans to grasp the idea.

  52. cresci says:

    I have read all the other comments superficially, so may be repeating myself. Let me give my impressions as a neighbor since I live in Brazil:

    Fr Z said: “I had read that, while Pope Francis is a staunch opponent of Marxist-based Liberation Theology, he did embrace a kind of “liberation theology” that flowed from the devotion of the people. If I (and others I talk to, and Buttiglione and Bermudez) are right about these things, then I may be getting closer to understanding a key element of Francis’ of economics, the North, etc.”

    It is not easy for a Northern mind to understand him mainly because what we have down in South America are attempts of solutions to specific local problems that the North has never had (or Europe had but long ago).
    Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela – to cite the most recent developments – suffer from a “state capitalism” different than that one practiced by China. Having been on the past colonies, what we had down here were people of different classes separated in a kind of caste system. Mainly, the degraded ones that were expelled from Europe, the slaves, the natives (indians), and the aristocracy.
    This system, up to this date, was never eliminated. Racism in itself might have diminished, but not the separation of classes.

    What matters in Brazilian (and neighbors) culture is not who you are on your own (the “self-made man”, but rather, your connections, origin and who do you know. There is no such thing as a clear legal system, because it is purposely dubious.

    It is purposely dubious because the aristocrat “class” wants to keep the power. Then they make and pass contradicting laws, so that when needed to crush a foe or help a friend, they can use their interpretation as they wish, provided they are on the side of the State. There is no way for you (or your business) to be self-made 100% legal or compliant, in Brazil (and Argentine, Venezuela, etc) you will always be disobeying one law or another (normally multiples) and are subject to getting a huge fine or having the business closed or going to jail. The only way you can avoid that is by letting the State (the government) be your business partner and/or bribing the overseeing/auditing officials. The system is corrupt in its nature.

    Successful companies in Brazil and Argentina are usually successful because they have bought everyone in the middle and upper scales and they have the government on their side. They might have come from former imperial/royal aristocrats who had the favour of the king/emperor but no really real gift to the busines; they might have come to their position by mid 1900’s caudillos and their appointment of their “trustable people” who where on their side; they might have risen from modern endemic corruption. And they try to make their monopolies by bribing lawmakers in order to create more laws that protect them and crushes, either by prohibitions or excessive taxes and labour legislation – all kind of self-initiative, small businesses or entrepreneurs.

    THAT is the “state capitalism” in Latin America. “Capitalists protected by the state from competition” is a better definition.

    This huge wormhole distortion created the evil monster that Latin America is. It is another completely different world, which straight-thinking, honest and ingenuous (as in innocent, truth-abiding) North Americans and Europeans cannot understand properly.

    For this “Mad Max” world we have in Brazil and Argentina, there are exclusive aspects and possible solutions. The Holy Father has one of such solutions as his viewpoint – they do not apply to the rest of the world, but that is how he was raised and educated. That is how he sees the world. And thus, he will try to apply his way of thinking and solving problems as if he was still in Argentina dealing with Argentinian issues the Argentinian way. The Argentinian way is to crush the opponents or those who are on your path.

    In resume, he sees that:
    Governments are evil unless they are by your party (the ideology doesn’t matter, whether it is left or right, there is no left and no right, all politicians are flour from the same bag)
    Companies are evil because they are monopolists and corrupt and they corrupt the government (one hand washes the other)
    The ones that are always on the weak side of the rope and get in trouble are the working class and the poor. Thus the Church must be on their side, and only.

    Getting too long, let me know if I can be more clear or expand more on this subject.

  53. cresci says:

    PS: The Government gets the people on their side by giving them fish (and housing, and whatever else) instead of teaching them how to fish or letting them make themselves by their own…